September 16, 2019

Giants Fever in a Post-2010 World

August 31, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

San Francisco Giants 2010 CelebrationI saw my first signs of acute Giants fever in the waning weekends of their 2010 championship year, when the team was in a neck-and-neck battle with San Diego for the NL West title. It wasn’t your standard rising crowd roar that accompanies two-strike counts for the home pitcher late in the game.  It wasn’t a series of disjointed, scoreboard-fueled “charge” or rally monkey cheers. It was more like a long, plugged-in electrical current, with occasional hot spikes, absolutely in sync with the rhythm of the ballgame. It rose for every at bat in all nine innings, and lasted straight through the glorious postseason.

I never remember fans at Candlestick Park being like that, but maybe they were just too frigid and removed from the action to care. All I know is that the crowds last year at AT&T Park—and the one I sat in last week for the first time—are the most positive, engaged baseball fans in the major leagues. For years I’ve been admiring Milwaukee’s Miller Park hordes via television, but there’s a pleasant Midwestern demeanor there that keeps fans from getting too rambunctious. The Phillies play in an excellent new park, and their phanatacism is equally phantastic, but they tend to boo and get depressed much quicker.

No such issues in San Francisco. The commuter Caltrain we took to the midweek night game with the Padres was stuffed to its second level with laughing, chanting Giants fanatics, some boarding as far south as San Jose. The third stop was the end of the line, exactly one long block from the ballpark, where the orange and black fan river spilled out onto King Street and joined similar-colored tributaries on its way to Willie Mays Plaza. It was hard to believe this was my first trip to the jewel on McCovey Cove, but then again, I live in L.A. and have only made it up to the Bay Area ten times in nearly 30 years.

AT&T ParkThe teeming streets around the park, fans dodging streetcars and vendors, are like a time warp back to the 1930s, maybe what you found at the foot of Coogan’s Bluff. But once you’re past the Mays statue, through the security line for the Mays Gate and up the escalator onto the concourse, the nostalgia wraps its comforting arms around you even more. The concession area feels like the bowels of Fenway but far less claustrophobic, with its odd angles and hidden ramps to upper levels, but adorned with creative, old-style signage for the John McGraw Derby Grill, Say Hey Sausages, Crazy Crab Wharf, etc. All with a sliver of field on one side and a ton of TVs on the other to keep you from missing a pitch.

After spending years going to Dodger Stadium, with its notorious arrive-in-the-3rd, leave-in-the-7th gatherings that spend much of the game on their phones, it was somewhat of a shock to experience the level of sheer attention the Giants crowd was giving the action on the field: moaning and groaning with nearly every ball and strike call, cheering every appearance of Pablo Sandoval, many fans in goofy Kung Fu Panda head gear. As has been their curse all year (and might very likely derail a repeat pennant), the Giants offense was nowhere to be found for most of the game, but it never stopped the crowd from vocally lathering their hope on the proceedings. Down by three runs in the 7th, they were up and dancing to “Shout!” between innings. And when Orlando Cabrera roped a single and they actually tied the game 5-5 in the 8th, the place went insane.

San Diego ended up scoring two in the top of the 10th to win it, but the Caltrain out of there ten minutes later was no less boisterous. How was that possible? Maybe it’s because the team won last year and are still deep in their grace period, but I think it’s more than that. These fans absolutely love their park and just being at the game. What’s not to like? Great food, plenty of public transportation, seats very close to the field with minimal foul territory, and the top of a sailboat gliding past the right field wall while Matt Cain looks in for his sign.

Hell, if I lived up there I’d be one Giant lunatic myself.

Jeff Polman has written fictional replay blogs for the 1924 and 1977 seasons, and a 1941 blogella that reversed baseball’s racist past. He is preparing a fourth online saga for early next year.

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